Pocket Gunships

AC-235 Light Gunship

The Jordanian Airbus/ATK/KADBB C295 gunship is a fascinating study in delivering effects for a modest outlay.

Jordan has effective armed forces and a growing defence industry, especially the King Abdullah II Design and Development Bureau (KADDB), but these two developments show an ability to obtain effective and ‘right sized’ capabilities at relatively modest costs.

In 2011 JADBB and ATK announced a development partnership that would seek to convert two C235 transport aircraft into AC-235 light gunships.

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, Feb. 19, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — ATK (NYSE: ATK) announced it has received a contract from the King Abdullah II Design and Development Bureau (KADDB) of the Kingdom of Jordan to modify two of the country’s CASA-235 transport aircraft into highly-capable and cost-effective special mission aircraft, according to the combined modification designs of both KADDB and ATK.  Subject to U.S. government export licensing approval, the modified aircraft are expected to be delivered by the late spring of 2013.  Terms of the contract were not announced.

ATK’s special mission aircraft offerings integrate intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) sensors, fire control equipment, and a LW30mm link-fed gun system.  These capabilities are controlled by ATK’s STAR Mission System which provides both day and night reconnaissance and fire control capabilities, and the ability to acquire, monitor and track items of interest.  The CASA-235 gunship provides customers an enhanced capability to conduct responsive defense, counterinsurgency, and border surveillance and security missions.

“Weaponized aircraft is an emerging international opportunity specifically tailored for ATK’s unique capabilities,” said Mike Kahn, President of ATK Missile Products Group. “Our expertise in mission systems architecture and design, and aircraft integration and certification of complex subsystems positions us well for growth in this area.”

“Since its inception, KADDB has established itself as the preferred global partner in the Middle East for the defence industry, initially in land systems, and most recently in aircraft modification. KADDB is well situated and experienced with all the required technical knowledge and infrastructure to move into this field,” said “Shadi Ramzi” Majali, KADDB Chairman and CEO.   “We are proud to embark with our well recognized and esteemed partner ATK to modify aircraft for the Jordan Armed Forces and the MENA region, and look forward to establishing this capability in Jordan.”

“We are pleased to partner with the King Abdullah II Design and Development Bureau of Jordan to develop and enhance the military aircraft capability for the Jordan Armed Forces,” said Robert Faille, ATK Director of International Business Development for the Middle East & Africa region.

For the KADDB on behalf of the Jordan Armed Forces, ATK will install and integrate electro-optical targeting systems, a laser designator, aircraft self-protection equipment, and an armaments capability that includes Hellfire laser-guided missiles, 2.75-inch rockets, and a M230 link-fed 30mm chain gun.  ATK’s M230 family of guns serves on the Apache helicopter.

ATK’s scope of work includes development, systems integration, aircraft modification, and testing.  Work will be performed in Jordan and at ATK facilities in Fort Worth, TX, Mesa, AZ and Pelham, AL.

Although the light gunship represents KADDB’s first endeavor in aircraft modification, it lays the foundation for further potential growth with experienced partners to accommodate Jordan and the MENA region’s requirements.

The light gunship capability package is the latest addition to ATK’s Special Mission Aircraft product portfolio, which provides affordable, responsive and advanced capabilities to customer-preferred platforms. ATK’s expertise includes outfitting various aircraft — including Cessna Caravans, Lockheed Martin C-130s, Bombardier Dash-8s, Hawker Beechcraft King Airs and others — with integrated intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities.

After much development effort the two aircraft were delivered to Jordan in March and May 2014, ready for the SOFEX trade show.

In addition to the m230LF 30mm chain gun, Hellfire II missiles and unguided 2.75″ rockets, the BAE APKWS guided rocket had also been integrated.

The aircraft were fitted with a range of defensive systems, MX-15 electro optical sensor, Thales I Master SAR/GMTI (same as Watchkeeper) selected armouring and various tactical communications systems.

AC-235 Light Gunship
AC-235 Light Gunship

Click here for the brochure

AC-235 Light Gunship
AC-235 Light Gunship

With a full weapons load the AC-235 has a range in excess of 4,000km.

It seems like KADBB, ATK and Airbus did a great job on the AC-235 because soon after taking delivery Jordan announced intent to push forward with a C295 conversion.

June 2014 press release from Airbus

Today His Royal Highness Prince Feisal bin Al Hussein of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan attended the announcement that the King Abdullah II Design and Development Bureau (KADDB), ATK and Airbus Defence and Space signed an agreement to cooperatively work together on a C295 gunship version.

A C295 currently operated by Royal Jordanian Air Force (RJAF) will be converted to gunship by ATK of the USA and join two AC-235 gunships that were delivered to Jordan by ATK at SOFEX.

The AC-295 gunship configuration will be based on the AC-235 Light Gunship which includes integrated mission and fire control systems, electro-optical and radar sensors, Hellfire missiles, ATK’s side-mounted M230 30mm chain gun, an integrated defensive suite and 2.75 inch guided rockets.

Head of Commercial for Military Aircraft, Antonio Rodriguez Barberán said: “We greatly appreciate Jordan’s continued confidence in our aircraft and look forward to supporting the industrial partners involved in this programme which will result in a cost-effective and powerful addition to the Jordan Armed Forces.”

A small fleet of C235/295 would provide the UK with a flexible tactical transport aircraft, VIP, ISTAR, Gunship, parachute training and possibly a maritime patrol capability.

So here is the question, if the AC-235 has DAS, EO/Target Designator, SAR/GMTI, Hellfire, 70mm laser guided rockets and ATK M230 30mm cannon, what is the difference in flight and acquisition costs between it and an Apache?

Just asking, you know, what with decisions on Apache Block III looming.

Basically, the AC-235 is a fixed wing Apache, or perhaps more accurately, a fixed wing Hind.

Am not proposing we bin the Apache upgrade but split purchase, keep Apache for when austere location and amphibious operations are needed and use the money saved from a smaller Apache upgrade and purchase a dozen or so C295/235. They fit perfectly beneath the A400M and deliver the same capability as the Apache when operating from large main operating bases like Bastion. Plus of course, a range of extra capabilities like VIP, tactical transport, air despatch and ISTAR when not in the gunship role.







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